Immigration of Temporary Lower-Skilled Workers: Current Policy and Related Issues [March 20, 2012] [open pdf - 468KB]
"U.S. employers in various industries argue that they need to hire foreign workers to perform lower-skilled jobs, while others maintain that many of these positions could be filled by U.S. workers. Under current law, certain lower-skilled foreign workers, sometimes referred to as guest workers, may be admitted to the United States to perform temporary service or labor under two temporary worker visas: the H-2A visa for agricultural workers and the H-2B visa for nonagricultural workers. Both programs are administered by the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS) and the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (DOL/ETA). The H-2A and H-2B programs--and guest worker programs broadly--strive to be both responsive to legitimate employer needs for labor and to provide adequate protections for U.S. and foreign temporary workers. There is much debate, however, about how to strike the appropriate balance between these twin goals. […] Bringing workers into the United States under either the H-2A program or H-2B program is a multi-agency process involving DOL, DHS, and the Department of State. As an initial step in the process, employers must apply for DOL labor certification to ensure that U.S. workers are not available for the jobs in question and that the hiring of foreign workers will not adversely affect U.S. workers. […] While the discussion of current guest worker programs in this report focuses on the H-2A and H- 2B visas, it also covers the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program, the largest of several programs under the J-1 visa for participants in work- and study-based exchange visitor programs. The SWT program is particularly relevant because participants work largely in unskilled jobs, including H- 2B-like seasonal jobs at resorts and amusement parks."
CRS Report for Congress, R42434